Changing the Conversation: Design & Hearing

I have been a graphic designer for over 13 years in Chicago. I have worked with many interesting and diverse clients and never thought I would work for one “client” exclusively. Design isn’t just about making things pretty but about understanding a need, developing messages and clearly communicating these to people through different media and channels.

So why did I join a hearing aid manufacturer?

A former teacher of mine, Marcia Lausen, and one of her staff designers, a former classmate, contacted me about a potential in-house job at Phonak. They introduced me to their 10-month research of the industry and showed concepts they had developed at studio/lab, a design studio.

Their research informed The Phonak Gain Initiative (PGI). PGI is about changing the conversation and strengthening the relationship between hearing aid customers and their hearing care professionals. “The conversation” has been, and still is, about the struggles of being hearing impaired, the fear of not being “normal”, the sadness of losing one’s hearing and other health conditions that can be associated with hearing loss.


PGI encourages us to talk about what matters to all of us, what sounds we cherish and how hearing connects everyone with people they love, work with, and with life in general. It seeks to inspire you to do something about your hearing not because you “have to” but because “you choose to hear” what you care about. I fell in love with the idea of being part of a positive shift within the hearing conversation and joined Phonak US at the end of 2014.

I had never heard about Phonak and didn’t know anything about the hearing aid industry. The only hearing-loss-related memory I can conjure up is me as a little girl and my grandfather always yelling and repeating himself. I always thought he was angry but looking back I realize it must have been due to him not hearing himself or others.

I am glad PGI pulled me in and opened up a new opportunity for me to inform and educate, may it be a person that has hearing loss themselves or someone who notices others around them having difficulty hearing. Being an in-house designer allows me to see where Phonak is going and contribute early in the process.

gain-project-picsTo date I have worked on educational brochures about the process of getting hearing aids and what services consumers can expect from hearing care professionals. I’ve designed materials for hearing care professionals, that they can use to work with clients to identify their hearing goals and also allow them to stay in touch.

We are a company that sells products, so advertising and social media is always present and my team (two designers, one intern and myself) is part of the push to change the messaging to encourage everyone to listen to their hearing, and put forward the benefits of getting it checked.

Sound matters, and I am happy that my work also makes me appreciate this dimension in my own life. To date it has been an enriching experience, making my work more meaningful.

I look forward to learning more about what our end users need and connect with, and working on changing the conversation while crushing the stigma of hearing aids being a burden and for old people only.

One thought on “Changing the Conversation: Design & Hearing”

  1. I’m a brazilian audiologist and I am also a Designer… This post is great cause it shows that there’s other people who, like myself, sees the need of a well designed message to the end user! Great article

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